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'creative freedom'

Netflix CEO defends Dave Chappelle special amid backlash, says stand-up 'exists to push boundaries'

The co-CEO of Netflix is defending Dave Chappelle's latest stand-up special amid backlash over the comedian's jokes about transgender people, telling employees there are no plans for it to be removed. 

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos in a memo on Friday addressed criticism of Chappelle's new special, The Closer, including from the company's own employees, Variety reports. In the special, the comedian makes numerous jokes about LGBTQ people, saying he's "team TERF" — meaning trans-exclusionary radical feminist — and defending J.K. Rowling over her controversial remarks on trans issues

"We don't allow titles [on] Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don't believe The Closer crosses that line," Sarandos reportedly writes in his memo. "I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it's an important part of our content offering."

Netflix strives to support the "creative freedom" of its talent, Sarandos writes, arguing "there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful." He also warns that there may be additional calls in the coming days for the company to remove the special, "which we are not going to do."

Among those who criticized The Closer was Terra Field, a trans software engineer for Netflix, who in a viral Twitter thread spoke out against "the harm that content like this does." Field has now been suspended by Netflix for allegedly attempting to attend a meeting that she wasn't invited to, The Verge reports

Amid the controversy, Chappelle received a standing ovation following a documentary screening last week, joking, "If this is what being canceled is like, I love it." He also told the crowd, "F--- Twitter. F--- NBC News, ABC News, all these stupid a-- networks. I'm not talking to them. I'm talking to you. This is real life."